Thursday, January 2, 2014

REVIEW: Fujifilm XQ1-The Ultimate Compact Point & Shoot? (Review Part II of II)

In the first installment of my Fujifilm XQ1 review entitled REVIEW: Fujifilm XQ1–A Canon s120 Killer or a Compact X20?, I posed the question if this is a Canon s120 killer or a Compact x20. The reason for this comparison was deliberate because Fujifilm users want to know if it is really a compact x20. Performance-wise, I’d say yes, but I’d also say that if you can handle the size of the x20 you’ll be much more satisfied with it than the XQ1. Canon users who lust for the gorgeous in-camera results from Fujifilm cameras will naturally want to know if they should get this camera or the s120, and in that case I’d have to recommend the s120 over the XQ1 because of s110/s120 touchscreen allows for quick autofocus adjustments on these compact cameras.

Personally I think the camera makers have gone overboard in cutting down cost and number of physical buttons, so no camera I’ve used is more irritating than the XQ1 due to this fact. Sure, it creates images that I prefer to its Canon S series counterparts, but the pain of changing the focus point via the E-Fn menu (which is a touch screen press on the s110/s120) is a showstopper for me. I couldn’t live with this camera, and even my non-geek wife found it annoying compared to her iPhone which allows for this functionality.

Bookshelf Test

The following shots are done on a tripod with all camera default settings except I do enable RAW when possible (ISO’s above 6400 are JPEG only). The full gallery of bookshelf images can be found at http://photos.ronmartblog.com/fujifilm/xq1/e254ef4e7, but I’ve included a few noteworthy images below. Please keep in mind that the images are not crooked – the camera is level, but the bookshelf has sagged over time due to weight so I use camera level instead of adjusting the camera for a level shot of the bookshelf. There’s also distortion when fully zoomed out to 6.4mm. It should also be noted that at 6.4mm I can’t get my close enough on a tripod to just get the one shelf, hence the extra space shown. Given the 4:3 aspect ratio of the images, I also can’t get just one shelf if I put the blue Mastery book to the left and the Excel book to the right as I try to do for all of my bookshelf shots.

Click to view and examine the original
f/1.8 @ 6.4 mm, 0.8s, ISO 100, No Flash

As is the case with most cameras, the zoomed out results offer the best overall results

Click to view and examine the original
f/4.9 @ 25.6 mm, 5.3s, ISO 100, No Flash

Zoomed in all the way is still good, but inferior to the wide angle dynamic range and sharpness

My findings were as follows:

  • After ISO 800 the in-camera noise reduction is so bad that it really destroys the images. As a result, my advice is to set Noise Reduction to –2 (Low) and use a product like Noiseware for the best results. Doing this will allow you to go to ISO 3200 and 6400 in a pinch and still get usable photos.
  • I found the image quality to be unusable after ISO 1600 due to horrible in-camera Noise Reduction and the quality was mediocre with external noise reduction after ISO 3200.
  • ISO 6400 and 12,800 are unusable with in-camera noise reduction and are barely useable with external noise reduction, so I consider this to really to be a camera with a maximum ISO of 3200 (1600 max with NR = 0).
  • The X20 has what appears to my eyes as one stop better high ISO performance (meaning that it goes to ISO 6400 with NR = –2 and it is still usable).
  • The Canon s120/G16 offer two stops of high ISO noise improvement over the XQ1 (meaning that ISO 800 on the XQ1 looks similar to ISO 3200 on the s120/G16 to my eyes).

Here’s a real world example of a shot taken at ISO 500 that looks okay from a distance, but if you click to look full view you’ll see massive artifacts that destroy the image:


f/1.8 @ 6.4 mm, 1/15, ISO 500

At 6.4mm, the 1/15 sec should have been sufficient stabilization to eliminate camera shake (and in fact it was shot from a fairly stable chest tripod. However, details on the ornaments are void even at this low ISO, so I think this camera will frustrate users who depend on it for important events.

Based on these findings, I was very disappointed with the image quality of the XQ1 so I’d recommend the following cameras in this order over this camera:

  1. Fujifilm X20
  2. Sony RX100 II 
  3. Canon G16
  4. Canon s120
  5. Panasonic LF1 
  6. Canon s110

However, I prefer the in-camera color and processing of the Fujifilm over the Canon and Panasonic equivalents. The Sony is very similar in terms of in-camera performance.

Conclusion

See the Bookshelf test section for my recommendations, but for now I’d put this camera in the NOT RECOMMENDED camp. It’s the perfect form factor, but it falls short overall for both ergonomics and image quality performance. I’d love to see them add a touch screen and Imagenomic’s Noiseware noise reduction in-camera for much better results, but until that happens it feels like I picked up an old camera from 2007 in terms of image quality performance.

Be sure to see the first installment of my Fujifilm XQ1 review entitled REVIEW: Fujifilm XQ1–A Canon s120 Killer or a Compact X20? if you haven’t already for sample pics and much more.

Where to order

Click here to order the B&H web site. However, I’d urge you to consider these cameras instead:

  1. Fujifilm X20
  2. Sony RX100 II 
  3. Canon G16
  4. Canon s120
  5. Panasonic LF1 
  6. Canon s110

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My advice to Fujifilm is get a bigger sensor and/or license the noise reduction software from Imagenomic to greatly enhance the in-camera performance. This and a touch

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. Just a question: you wrote that you used RAW whenever possible, then complained about destructive NR which is JPEG only.
What are your findings for RAW-only users?
Many TIA

Ron Martinsen said...

Naturally there's a lot more detail in the RAW which is why I keep recommending using Noiseware which would allow for a better balance of detail preservation and noise reduction. With that said, one major loss is that you can't use the Fuji film systems when doing RAW processing (in ACR & LR), so you lose some of the charm offered by the Fujifilm X series.

Ron

Anonymous said...

Very useful review. Unfortunately I read this review too late !! I have had the confirmation of my advice as regards the FujiXQ1 of which I'm owner since the first days of December 2013.This camera does not be worthy of 400 Euro I spent .